Category Archives: Blog

You Wii’d on my iPad (or: Why You’re Not Funny)

Apple debuted their new device today, a large-format iPod Touch that they’re calling the iPad.

iPad

The first thing that may come to mind when you think of the word “pad” is “menstrual pad”, which is a spongy mesh-covered product that ladies put in their underpants to blot the flow of blood from their periods. Nearly all post-pubsecent, pre-menopausal women experience their menstrual period approximately every twenty-eight days. Over half of the world’s population is female, so menstrual periods are experienced by, were experienced by, or will be experienced by about three billion human beings on this planet.

This is a picture of a menstrual pad:

Menstrual Pad

Are you coping with this so far?

So my question for you, world – and particularly the nerdy male tech press that will cover the iPad – is this: are you over it? Can you get past the fact that one definition of the word “pad” describes the rag that women put in their underwear?

Resist the Urge, Funny Man

Or do you want to be funny? Do you want to make a joke about it? Do you want to make some attempt at humour that points out the association between “iPad” and “menstrual pad”?

And if you want to be funny, i understand that. It’s very rewarding to tell a joke and to have people laugh at it. i try to be funny all the time. It makes things more interesting, and it makes me feel good when people laugh at my jokes.

But if you’re new to humour, here’s a hot tip: jokes about menstruation aren’t particularly funny. They’re actually kinda sleazy. Women, generally, don’t like them. And more evolved men don’t tend to enjoy them either.

Sleazy Guy

Know who tells menstrual pad jokes? This guy.

Why You’re Not Funny

Here’s another joke-telling protip, if you’re still keen on unleashing your iPad/menstrual pad zinger on an unsuspecting world: the more obvious the joke is, the more likely it is that people have already heard it, and the less likely they are to laugh and consider you clever.

Example: Michael Jackson and the Pope walk into a bar, and … SOMETHING ABOUT MOLESTING CHILDREN!!! KA-POW!!

… Ha ha ha?

On Being a Three-Year-Old

We went through this when Nintendo released the Wii. In English, “Wii” sounds like “wee”, which is infantile slang for “urination” or “penis”. Wii jokes were old the moment Nintendo revealed the name, and iPad/menstrual pad jokes will be doubly so.

So my advice for you, fellow men – as i am a dyed-in-the-wool humourist, and someone who’s dropped more than his fair share of unfunny bombs, is this: do not make menstrual pad jokes about the iPad, or i will list you at the bottom of this post in my Unfunny iPad/Menstrual Pad Joke-Telling Douchebag Hall of Fame.

To recap: obvious jokes about feminine hygiene products are not funny, and make you sound like a dim-witted sleaze. Exception: “douchebag”, which remains both useful and hilarious.

Unfunny iPad/Menstrual Pad Joke-Telling Douchebag Hall of Fame

(go ahead – publish an article with an iPad/menstrual pad gag. i will put your name here, because you’re an idiot.)

  • MadTV (a bastion of classy humour) used the iPad gag well before the product was announced (or perhaps even designed). These guys have set the sleaze bar quite high. Let’s see if anyone can top them:



  • Congratulations to (apparently) everyone who uses Twitter, for making the oh-so-witty “iTampon” a trending topic:

    Twitter iTampon

    It’s subtle, but i … i *think* i get it …

  • Jezebel.com has a list of individual Twitter offenders
  • npr’s Shereen Meraji apparently finds it hilarious (thanks, Amy)

UPDATE

i received a concerned email from Chella over at Adventures in Menstruating. At AIM, the entire schtick is built around period jokes, but Chella helped me put a fine point on it: i think what really bothers me about menstruation “jokes” is that they’re often a thinly-veiled jab at women. If Chella wants to run a thoroughly disgusting, poop report-style site starring Aunt Flo, more power to her. i hereby grant Chella amnesty from the Unfunny iPad/Menstrual Pad Joke-Telling Douchebag Hall of Fame.

i will do the same for you, if you can produce some sort of documentation proving that you are mentally challenged, either due to a birth defect or some sort of boating accident when you were younger. Otherwise, prepare to see yourself on that list. Resist the urge!!

You Are Sooo Samrt

And to those who repeat, incredulously, “iPad?? How did that escape Apple’s marketing department? Golly, they were really asleep at the switch,” i say puhLEEEZE. You must honestly think that 1. you were clever enough to come up with an iPad/menstruation joke on your own before anyone else, and 2. the marketing department of a publicly-traded, multi-schnillion dolar company that has spent millions of dollars developing this new product and building an insane amount of hype around it, never once, in all the weeks and months they spent preparing this press conference and devising their brand and marketing strategy, considered that the word “pad” also describes a feminine hygiene product.

Really? Really?? You honestly think that the lame joke you cooked up after a few minutes of grinding your grey matter gears actually evaded the attention of an entire corporation full of people? You think you’re really that brilliant? Well then … i’m not sure what to say. i’ll only assert that those who end up on the list deserve to be there. ;)

Further Reading

Their Answering Machine is Our Amnesia

The film world sticks to a plot device that grows increasingly implausible as time marches on.

In film (and teevee), nobody checks their phone messages like a normal human being. Here in Canada, you pay the phone company for the Call Answer service. Messages are recorded silently through your phone. To check your messages, you put the receiver to your ear and navigate a little audio maze, usually pushing “1″ to listen to messages, and maybe “7″ to delete them. Then you hang up.

But of course, if you are in a movie, nobody will know that you just received word that the President has been kidnapped.

Bad Dudes shirt

Yes. Yes, i am.

ROM-COMmunications

Similarly, imagine you are lying in bed crying because the sinewy window cleaner you’ve been dating has just admitted to cheating on you with your snarly rival from that high-profile fashion magazine. In real life, when he calls, your phone rings once or twice, and then he is “forwarded to an automatic voice message service”, and told that “[Fiesty Female Protagonist] is not available”. He’s resigned to leaving a message on your modern-day Call Answer service. But the audience can’t hear any of this.

So instead, you have an old-school answering machine that actually broadcasts all incoming calls through its speakers, live, while the machine tapes them. “Diana … Diana, are you there? … C’mon – pick up, Diana. Allison lied to you. There’s nothing going on between us.” (The camera, at this point, is focussed on the machine, with you writhing in emotional agony on the bed in the background, out of focus.)

Answering Machine

Behold: the phuture.

So here’s the deal: in our modern-day, post-1993 society, no one owns an answering machine like that. It’s a complete contrivance cooked up by film and teevee writers to let the audience in on the action, and it’s ridiculous. You might as well show your protagonist churning her own butter to demonstrate that she’s dilligent. Attention writers: we don’t churn butter any more. Whenever i see one of those answering machines in a movie (and indeed, WHENEVER a character checks messages in a movie, it’s on one of those machines), suspension of disbelief is RUINED. Thanks for NOTHING, Hollywood. i want my thirteen bucks back.

Thank goodness GAMES don’t have any hackneyed contrivances like the answering machine, huh?

Oh wait. They do.

Keeping Up with the Forgetful Joneses

If i were to pick the single most overused, implausible storytelling device in video games, it’s retrograde amnesia. The cast of video game characters who start their adventures not knowing who they are or where they came from stretches on for miles. i found a partial list over at Giant Bomb. It’s so rampant that it’s enough to make me NOT want to play a game. i know that if i start into an adventure where the playable character has amnesia, the rest of the game’s writing may be similarly uninspired.

Forgetful Jones

I can’t remember the last video game i played without amnesia as a plot element. Dig Dug?

A nearly comparable offense is to start your character off grossly underpowered. Everyone likes an underdog story, and many games slowly introduce abilities as the player progresses, but DAMN, folks … when i start playing an RPG, and my character is a pasty-white androgynous skinny kid with spiky hair and a wooden spoon, i sarcastically say to myself “Gee – i WONDER if he’s going to get mega-powerful and dragonpunch Satan in the face by the time this thing ends?”

Answer: yes.

Credit Where Credit is Due

So i need to offer my props to a few games i can think of that don’t commit this sin: Banjo Tooie, where the bear and bird start with all of the moves they learned in the first game; Final Fantasy IV, where the main character is a well and respected Dark Knight who knows a thing or two about wielding a wooden spoon; Full Throttle, where you begin and end as a badass biker; and … maybe Shadow of the Colossus, where you are required to complete the entire game using your God-given gifts, and can only unlock extra items and powers on successive play-throughs.

Ben from Full Throttle

Ben. (Props to concept artist Alex Thomas)

i’m sure you can think of better examples! If you dare to defend amnesia in video games, lay it on me. OR: What’s your favourite game where your character DOESN’T start out as an underpowered know-nothing?

A Cure for Fat Fingers

Interrupting Cow Trivia, a fun new trivia game that you can play online with your friends, is now in open public beta. Based on your feedback from our first MULTIPLAYER TEST-A-THONS last week, we’ve made some very big changes to the way you play the game.

Here’s the feedback we keyed in on, based on what you wrote on our survey:

  • The game is too punishing. It stinks to type in the correct answer milliseconds too slowly. (one player described this as suffering a “headshot” the moment he entered the game. Well-put!)
  • Most 10-player games ended with 3 players on the scoreboard, and everyone else with zero points. That’s no fun!
  • You should be able to accomplish something in the game even if you’re not the fastest typist.

Cow hooves

Seriously – how am i supposed to type with THESE THINGS? (Photo used with permission of BarnP)

Ch-ch-changes

So since this is a fun game and not grade eight gym class, we took your suggestions and made some changes. Here are the Rules of Play for the next iteration of Interrupting Cow Trivia:

How to Play

  • You’ll see a hint and up to three clues fill the screen.
  • After the clues are finished, the letters in the answer start to fill in.
  • When you know the answer, type it into the blue box and press the ENTER key.

Answer Order

  • Everyone has a chance to answer. As your opponents answer, green checkmarks appear beside their player names.
  • When all players have answered, or the question times out, we’ll give the Streak to the player who answered first.
  • All players earn points according to how quickly they answered.

Scoring

  • All questions are worth 1000 points.
  • The longer the question stays on the screen, the fewer points it’s worth.
  • The first player to correctly answer a question gets the Streak – a multiplier that boosts a question’s point value.
  • The Streaker’s multiplier increases with every question he answers first.
  • Any player can break the Streak and become the Streaker by answering first.

BIG thanks to Squize at Gaming Your Way for specifically suggesting these changes, and to all our other testers who suggested similar tweaks. We’ll try these rules out in our next multiplayer test. If they’re great, we’ll keep ‘em! If they suck, we’ll chuck ‘em!

Everybody Wins!

Everybody Wins!

Er … that should say “gamers”, not “children”. Sorry.

Our next scheduled multiplayer beta test, “Everybody Wins!”, is on Thursday January 14 2010. We’ll do two tests:

  • Everybody Wins! at 4:00 PM EST
  • Everybody Wins! at 8:00 PM EST

If you’ve played the game before, we’d LOVE to hear what you think of the new rules. If you have a friend who’s never played, here’s a fact: WE ADORE VIRGINS. Invite that special someone along to play with you.

The doors open at 4PM and 8PM sharp at InterruptingCowTrivia.com. See you in the game!

Moo.


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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

PROTIP (and something i didn’t realize until now): soliciting directed feedback from people gives you far, FAR more useful advice than asking for any old feedback.

BAD:

Q: What do you think of my dress?

A: You should be wearing a pantsuit.
A: It doesn’t make your ass look as fat as that other dress.
A: Let’s talk about your shoes instead. They’re terrible.
A: Get an entirely different dress. That shade of blue makes me think of the Korean War.

GOOD:

Q: How would you tailor this dress to make it fit my body better?

A: i’d take it in at the waist slightly.
A: Needs to be tighter at the waist – perhaps lower the neckline.
A: I think it fits pretty well.
A: A bit loose around the middle. Maybe shorten the sleeves.

Ah, this – THIS feedback is the stuff of my dreams. i’ve had a rough road this week with catastrophically bad news at the office, and a steaming pile of terrible feedback from certain game developers who should know better (but of course i’m not talking about you, dear reader). No one was having fun in the game alone, so we rounded everyone up and scheduled two play times for Interrupting Cow Trivia. Everyone popped in, the test ran for an hour, and we locked up the game again. Then we asked players to fill out a short survey. The difference in the quality of feedback was like night and day.

Or rather, it was like the difference between getting shot in the gonads with a crossbow at night, and day.

Lobbying for Change

One mystery that remains to be solved is the feedback we’ve received about the game’s lobby. We may not have asked enough directed questions about this, but general consensus is that the lobby UI stinks. Without more pointed constructive criticism, i don’t know how to address this.

So let’s tackle it together! Here’s a shot of the Lobby that players saw in our recent playtests:

Interrupting Cow Trivia Lobby

Pretty UI, or wretched hive of scum and villainy?

Interrupting Cow Trivia Lobby Annotated

Here’s a list of the things you can do here:

  1. The “down” arrow next to “High Scores” expands that box. Player scores are listed there, along with your ranking (if you’re logged in).
  2. The blue arrows scroll the High Scores list.
  3. Filter the list by Friends, Foes, Members, Guests, etc. by using the drop-down.
  4. Click on any player name to see the Profile Pop-up (as long as the player is a member)
  5. Roll over the tables to see the table name and category.
  6. Click the “PLAY” button beneath any table to join a game.
  7. Click on a table to get the Table Details Pop-Up, which tells you who’s playing at the table and what the table settings are.
  8. Click to see a list of who’s online.
  9. Click to start your own table.
  10. Click to refresh the table list.
  11. The blue arrows scroll the table list.
  12. Click to return to the Game Options screen.

It Was Fine Until People Had to Use It

Here’s a summary of feedback:

  1. Many players suggested we build a High Scores feature. This, despite the “High Scores” label in a 22-point font at the top of the screen, with a sparkly pink udder crown next to it.
  2. Some players sat at this screen and waited, expecting something to happen. They did not know that action was required on their part to join a game.
  3. Some players did not recognize the large circles under the heading “Tables” as tables where games were taking place. The metaphor was, perhaps, unfamiliar.
  4. The three icons went unnoticed.
  5. A few players came to this screen in private beta when no one else was playing, and concluded that the game could not be played solo. They complained that they should be able to play by themselves. (i admit, this one mystified me … just join a table if you want to play. Doesn’t matter how many other players are online.)
  6. Generally, enough players came to this screen and were confused as to what they were supposed to do.

During the private beta, we thought the problem was that the screen contained too much text, so we tightened it up in a number of places, and changed some textual buttons to icons with text pop-ups to remove visual clutter. Here’s a before and after comparison:

Interrupting Cow Trivia Lobby Before and After

She’s lost 20 pounds on the ThatMakesMoreSense Diet!

We’re Giving Her All She’s Got, Cap’n

Apparently, based on our more helpful feedback in the multiplayer tests, we haven’t done enough. Can you help us play detective and figure out why this Lobby screen causes people so much grief, and make specific suggestions to improve it?

One idea we have already is to actually add text – a call to action that tells the player something like “CHOOSE A TABLE AND CLICK ‘PLAY’”. Something like that.

Idea #2: kill the “tables waiting” text, because it’s not that useful.
Idea #3: redesign the arrow buttons
Idea #4: Put the category in the middle of the table, instead of the word “waiting”. Perhaps players wait at this screen because they see the word “waiting” everywhere?

Is there anything we’re missing?

You Should See the Other Guy

To digress, it amazes me that we’ve had so many complaints about the lobby. For your amusement, please take a quick look at the game selection screens for these competing trivia products:

FunTrivia.com

ConQUIZtador

Chaos Trivia

Wizard Trivia

And before you ask, no – i didn’t go scouring the Internatz for the worst interfaces i could find. These games enjoy the top slots on a Google search for “multiplayer trivia”.

… but not for long. ;)

Moo.


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ICT MULTIPLAYER TEST-A-THONS

The wait is over! This Thursday, Interrupting Cow Trivia goes into open public beta. Open public means YOU, dear reader. You’ll finally be able to experience what a select few have only enjoyed in private, with the door locked and the blinds drawn.

And since the game is a thousand per cent more fun with other players, we’re scheduling two MULTIPLAYER PLAYTEST-A-THONS:

  • Thursday January 7th 4:00 PM EST
  • Thursday January 7th 8:00 PM EST

That’s tomorrow!! Unless you’re reading this at some point in the future, in which case, YOU MISSED IT! What’s the future like, space man? Don’t you wish they’d invent a time machine so that you can go back and play in one of the MULTIPLAYER PLAYTEST-A-THONS?? … What’s that? They already have?? Wel, then! See you tomorrow!

What’s New?

If you’ve been following our Designer Diary for Interrupting Cow Trivia, you know that we’ve lined up some amazing background artwork for the game. Tomorrow, you’ll see the full monty. The game is fully skinned with a fabulous 50′s look. There’s new content, new features, and a new cow. Here’s a run-down of what you’ll see at 4PM or 8PM tomorrow:

New Cow!

As endearingly brain-damaged as our old cow was, we’ve put her out to pasture. Our new cow has been specially formulated to appeal to Japanese pre-teen girls and gay men over 40, which we count as a win/win. Plus, she wears ROLLERSKATES!

New Interrupting Cow

New Trivia!

A number of testers have complained that our current content is too difficult. To these whiny bitches, we humbly recommend nutting up. There’s plenty of pasture in Farmville to let your brain slowly go to mush. To the rest of you smart cookies who were BORN to school sucka MCs at trivia, we offer these awesome new question packs:

  • Movies – Actors We give you the genre, year, and three actors. You tell us what movie they starred in.
  • TV – Actors Same deal as Movies, but the screen is smaller and the actors make less money and usually die tragically.
  • TV – Characters Given three character names, can you name the TV show they were in?
  • Music – Lyrics We’ll give you a band name and the lyrics to a famous song. What’s the song called?
  • Wordplay – Idioms This one sounds like it’s for nerds, but it’s fast and easy and super-fun. Finish the popular phrases:

    Too many cooks ***** *** *****.
    A stitch in time ***** ****.
    Crazy like * ***.
    Mad as * ******.
    Two heads *** ****** **** ***.

New Features!

Get a load of our lobby, where you can check out high scores and join games. You can create a custom table with the trivia YOU want to play. Your XP bar is now front and center, so you can keep a better eye on how you’re levelling. And, as before, you can click any player’s name to see his or her stats, and add that player to your Friends or Foes lists.

DID YOU TOTALLY KNOW? Your Friends and Foes lists persist across the Untold Entertainment message boards. HOTSAUCE!

Join the Herd. Follow the Cow.

We’ve created a special Twitter account for the game, and are working on some great Twitter features for you Twits to enjoy. Follow @ICTrivia for reminders about when the MULTIPLAYER TEST-A-THONS are starting, and the cow will keep you in the loop. and hook you up with the link.

See you all tomorrow at 4PM or 8PM EST!

Moo.


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